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Festival of Fear 2016: Housebound

By  · Published on October 7th, 2016

Junkfood Cinema

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Junkfood Cinema.

Why do we love film festivals? For the filmic geology. Fests are treasure hunts in which cinephiles root through the deeper cuts of independent and foreign film fare in order to find the true gems. These are the movies that aren’t likely to play in your town unless you have a thriving arthouse theater, and even then the odds aren’t always in your favor. In many ways, that deep dive is also what our podcast Junkfood Cinema is all about.

Now that we’ve entered October, what this writer deems the real most wonderful time of the year, it seemed appropriate to highlight not only horror films (an absolute necessity), but more specifically those horror films that host C. Robert Cargill and myself have discovered during those film fest treasure hunts. Hence, we kick off our Festival of Fear series!

This week’s film, Housebound, was featured at Austin’s SxSW in 2014 and comes to us thanks to New Zealand genre film maestro Ant Timpson. It’s the story of a troubled young woman, Kylie, who, after a failed attempt to steal an ATM, is remanded to house arrest in her mother’s home. While the strained relationship between mother and daughter is enough to make the experience unbearable for Kylie, the apparent presence of a supernatural entity in the house is far more unsettling. Now Kylie is legally mandated to remain in a haunted house!

Housebound is a perfect example of how clever writing and disciplined dashes of comedy and pathos can reinvigorate a terribly familiar horror subgenre. Writer/director Gerard Johnstone delivers a tale that artfully supports the maxim that one good turn deserves another…and then another. He thereby makes the low budget outing feel like a major studio release with flavors reminiscent of both Ti West and Edgar Wright.

Housebound is supposedly scheduled for a Hollywood remake, which is incredibly frustrating. Apart from one brief mention of Maori, the native people of New Zealand, there is nothing in the original 2014 film to keep American audiences at arms length. Instead of waiting for the inevitably watered-down rehash, check out the original Housebound currently streaming on Netflix and join Junkfood Cinema for a discussion of its deliciously claustrophobic scares.

As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episodes covering an additional cult movie, a new movie in theaters, or a mailbag episode devoted to your submitted questions! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.